Learning by building

Challenges & Innovations during the construction of the Crystal Houses façade


  • Faidra Oikonomopoulou TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment




Continuing from the experimental validation of the adhesively bonded system, this chapter presents the main challenges confronted and records the innovative solutions implemented during the consecutive construction steps of the adhesivelybonded cast glass façade. These include the manufacturing and quality control of the bricks, the set-up of the construction site, the levelling of the reference supporting beam, the bonding method used and the fabrication and installation of customized elements such as the architraves, window and door frames and the intermixing zone of glass with terracotta bricks. The experimental work on prototype elements, described in Chapter 5, resulted into the use of a colourless, UV-curing adhesive of the Delo Photobond family for bonding the solid glass blocks together. The tests indicated as well that the desired monolithic structural performance of the glass masonry system and a homogeneous visual result can only be achieved when the selected adhesive is applied in a 0.2-0.3 mm thick layer. In accordance, the bricks have to meet a strict dimensional tolerance of ± 0.25 mm. On the facade as a whole, this means that the overall size deviations will be limited to a few mm. The nearly zero thickness of the adhesive together with the request for unimpeded transparency introduced numerous engineering puzzles, addressed in this chapter. The fundamental difference between conventional brickwork and the developed glass masonry system is that a standard mortar layer compensates for the size deviations of the bricks, while the selected adhesive cannot. This manifests the level of complexity introduced by the manual bonding and the significance of constantly controlling the entire construction with high precision methods. Based on the conclusions of the research and the technical experience gained by the realization of the project, recommendations are made on the further improvement of the presented glass masonry system for future applications.

Author Biography

Faidra Oikonomopoulou, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Faidra (Phaedra) Oikonomopoulou was born on 1984 in Athens, Greece. In 2009 she graduated with a diploma (MSc) of Architect Engineer from the Faculty of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens [NTUA], ranking among the top students in her class. For the coming one year she worked both as an architect engineer in Athens and as a travel article contributor. In 2010 she followed a second master degree in Building Technology at the Delft University of Technology. It was her MSc thesis initiative that introduced her to glass as a structural material: "The design of a fully glass pavilion for the Temple of Apollo Epikourios in Peloponnese". She proudly presented the findings of her thesis in Challenging Glass 3 Conference. Following her graduation in 2012, Faidra embarked on an adventure in Namelok, a Maasai village in Kenya, to work on the use of mud bricks for construction and pursue her other big passions: travelling and wildlife spotting. Many elephants and lions later she returned to Delft as a researcher for a project on innovative glass joints, followed by a six-month internship in an engineering office specializing in structural glass applications in Athens.